THE CHURCH OF ALEXANDRIA
IN THE REIGN OF JUSTINIAN I
FR. TADROS Y. MALATY
WITH POPE TIMOTHY III (31ST POPE)
In the year Pope Timothy was ordained (A.D. 519),
Anastasius died and Justinian became emperor. He inclined
towards Chalcedonianism, yet his wife, Theodora the pious,
played the role of trying to appease him at several occasions.
Thus his era was characterized by periods of trouble and
periods of rest.
Once, as Justinian entered the church with bishop John
the Cappadocian, some Chalcedonians shouted against St.
Severus of Antioch and demanded his trial, while others
shouted with applause as a reaction to the former
disapproval. The emperor then convened a council to settle
the matter. When the Pope of Alexandria learned about the
emperor's intention, he didn't go to that council. The em-
peror commanded that he would be put under arrest, and
sent him to exile. A troop of soldiers entered the church by
force while the people gathered in support of their pope. The
matter developed into a battle between the armed soldiers
and the unarmed congregation. The soldiers killed many of
the people then arrested the pope and sent him to exile. The
emperor imposed an alien patriarch named Apollinarius.
St. Severus attended the council and he was condemned
to divestment and ex-communication. The emperor had
insisted on cutting his tongue but he did not as a result of the
interference of Theodora. He was satisfied by dismissing him from his parish, so he took refuge in Egypt. In the council, the patriarch of Constantinople was granted the title: "the Ecumenical Patriarch," the matter that caused dispute on titles between Rome and Constantinople.
WITH POPE THEODOSIUS I 32ND POPE
His era started with internal troubles. A party from
Alexandria held a meeting and ordained an archdeacon called
Kianus a patriarch, but Empress Theodora sent a delegation
to investigate the matter. Kianus admitted his fault and the
pope accepted his repentance and reinstated him to the rank
The Pope returned from his exile, but he was chased from city to city and from one monastery to the other together with St. Severus of Antioch.
The Pope sent to the emperor and the empress to thank
them for their attitude towards Kianus, but the emperor
thought that the people's love for the Pope might constitute
danger to him in the future so he planned to destroy him. He
ordered him to endorse the resolutions of the Council of
Chalcedon, promising to appoint him a pope all over Africa.
The Pope considered these promises devilish and refused to
sign. The emperor then summoned him and received him
with a great welcome and tempted him six times but the
Pope refused. The emperor then imprisoned him in
Constantinople and ordained an alien patriarch (Paul El-
Tanisi) and sent him with an entourage of soldiers. The alien
bishop remained for a whole year without any of the
congregation to pray with him except the ruler and the
soldiers. He often heard slogans like, "down with the traitor!
down with Jude the alien!," so he asked the emperor to
relieve him. The Pope remained in prison for 28 years until he died in A.D 567.
THE SECOND COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE (A.D 553)
Emperors used to interfere in the theological discussions and resorted to violence in handling them. The Easterns, meanwhile, were concerned with the discussions because they affected their faith and life and created an atmosphere of tension that prevailed the empire. There existed three groups that could not be under-estimated:
1. The non-Chalcedonian group. Who didn't bear any
authority yet they represented a theological power that could
not be resisted. According to Prof. Meyendorff the
Chalcedonians didn't have enough theologians capable of
arguing with them. This group gained strong popularity
particularly in Egypt and Syria. The people and their pastors
suffered the bitterness of persecution which created tension
against Byzantium and a national tendency to liberate their
countries at least to be free in choosing their patriarch and
2. The Chalcedonian group who represented the
authority, were supported by the royal court and the rulers.
3. A third group who wanted the church to go back to
pre- Chalcedon, not to be asked to accept the Chalcedonian
resolutions or to anathematize them, but just to ignore them.
Because of this tense atmosphere, emperors even those
who were Chalcedonian tried to find solutions for the sake of
unity of the empire and internal peace. One of these efforts
was Zeno's Henoticon which Anastasius bound himself by.
Yet Justinian I thought that he was capable of bringing back
the unity to the empire by condemning the "Three Chapters
(Tria Kephalaia)." These chapters were the writings of the
semi- Nestorian authors and were included in the documents
of the Council of Chalcedon [the writings of Theodore of
Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa.]
In A.D 553 the Council convened in Constantinople and affirmed the anathemas of the "Three Chapters". It also affirmed the emperor's anathema against the Origenists and Origen's writings.
Factors that have led to the failure of that council might
1. Probably both groups - Chalcedonians and non-
Chalcedonians - felt that the emperor was double-faced, as
Vasiliev notes, [Justinian's government was in its Church
policy a double- faced... with one face turned to the west,
asking for guidance from Rome, while the other, looking
east, sought the truth from the Syrian and Egyptian monks1.]
Rev. V. C. Samuel2 sees that this comment might bear some exaggeration. He was only trying to please Rome to get support for his plan of reconquering the west for the empire, and on the other hand to unite the parties in the Church without giving up Chalcedon.
2. Truly the condemnation of the "Three chapters" had
given some comfort to the non-Chalcedonians, because we
notice that the delegates of Rome announced the orthodoxy
of Ibas' letter to Maris of Ardaschir in Persia, which was
anathematized by the Council of Ephesus in 449 A.D. Now
we find a council of the Chalcedonians anathematizes these
writings as Nestorian. Yet most of the non-Chalcedonians
were demanding a clear text rejecting the resolutions of the
Council of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo. In the meantime
some Chalcedonians felt uneasy towards that council because
although it acknowledged the Council of Chalcedon as an
Ecumenical Council it attacked it by condemning the "Three
Chapters" that had been already approved by the council.
3. This council did not provide comfort to the people of
Alexandria while their legitimate Pope spent the greater time
of his papacy in a prison in Constantinople. Even when Paul
El-Tenaisy, the alien patriarch, died, another named
Apollinarius was ordained by the emperor's command. This
man entered Alexandria in the uniform of a military
commander and gave his orders to the people to assemble in
the church. He then took off the military clothes and put on
the priestly clothes and read to them the imperial decree. At
that time cries of protest were heard aloud as the alien
patriarch ordered the soldiers to use force and many were
martyred. Peole called that day "The Massacre"... at that
time the emperor was about to depart3.
Some historians assure that Justinian acted in good faith,
but what happened to the Copts stirred them up against
1. Vasiliev: Hist. of Byzantine Empire, p. 149.
2. V.C. Samuel: Council of Chalcedon Re-examined, p. 130.
3. Dr. Zaher Riad: Church of Alexandria Africa, 1962, p. 56 (in Arabic).